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200 North Castle Heights Ave.
Lebanon, Tennessee 37087
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Phone - 615-443-2839
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History of Lebanon, Tennessee

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A Brief History of Lebanon, Tennessee

Before the arrival of the European settlers in the late 1700's, the region around Lebanon, Tennessee was dotted with mounds and sites of fortified villages of the prehistoric Native American Indians. It was their hunting grounds, where wild game abounded in the cane brakes and cedar forests. Wilson County was established by the Tennessee General Assembly on Oct. 26, 1799, three years after Tennessee became a state. On Nov. 13, 1801, the town of Lebanon was authorized. The appointed commissioners chose the land around a gushing spring where in 1800, Neddy Jacobs had built his log cabin. Seeing the spot in a grove of red cedars, commissioner Christopher Cooper said, "This is the place." The cedars gave the place its name, Lebanon, a reminder of the Biblical land of the cedars. On Nov. 23, 1819, the City of Lebanon was officially incorporated.

Lebanon, originally called "one of the prettiest of Tennessee's country towns", became a center of commerce, culture and education. Cumberland University opened in September, 1842 with 45 students. Its first permanent building, located on the southeastern corner of College and East Spring Streets, near the Town Square, was burned during the War Between the States. The new building at the present location was built in 1896.

At the outbreak of the War Between the States, hundreds of Wilson Countians joined the Confederate Army, and some the Federal Army. General Robert Hatton, lawyer, state and US Representative, whose statue stands in the center of the Town Square, was elected commander of the 7th Tennessee Infantry, CSA, which fought under Lee in Virginia.

Thousands of Confederate and Federal soldiers passed through Lebanon between 1861 and 1865. On May 5, 1862, a fierce battle was fought on and around the Square when Federal troops surprised the cavalry troops of Col. John Hunt Morgan. Morgan, who had spent the night at the home of Mayor Anderson, and most of his men escaped to the east. On Dec. 6, 1862, Morgan again passed through the square with 800 Confederate cavalry and 600 infantry on his way to Hartsville, where he captured 2,000 Federal troops the next day, escorting them back through Lebanon toward Murfreesboro.

130 Confederate Veterans, including General Hatton, are buried in Lebanon's historic Cedar Grove Cemetery.

After the Civil War, industry and transportation expanded into the town with the Tennessee and Pacific Railroad (later N.C. and St. L. in 1877), Tennessee Central Railroad (1902), Lebanon Woolen Mills (1908) and the Gulf Red Cedar Company (1908).

Lebanon was home to the famous Castle Heights Military Academy, established in 1902. The school was originally a prestigious private boys and girls school, but was later changed to an all-male military academy. The school closed in the 1980's, following the decline of military schools during the Vietnam War era. The school's "Main" building is now preserved as the City of Lebanon Administration Building (City Hall).

Lebanon became the center of the Second Army's World War II maneuvers. General George Patton's tanks rumbled through the town before deployment to Europe. The Cumberland University campus was the headquarters and a monument there commemorates those events.

After the War, Lebanon experienced business and industrial growth with the opening of the first Industrial Park in Tennessee by Mayor William D. Baird. These included Hartmann Luggage, TRW and more recently the corporate headquarters of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

Lebanon has been the home of five governors of Tennessee, Sam Houston, James Chamberlain Jones, William Bowen Campbell, Robert L. Caruthers, and Frank G. Clement.

Much of the historic Town Square still remains, and is filled with antique and gift shops.


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